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  • Gustavo Driau

Waste pickers cooperatives receive support in Porto Alegre, Brazil

Brazil has the most confirmed COVID-19 cases in Latin America: 800,000 infections COVID-19 cases and 43,000 deaths as of June 15. Brazil is today the world epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic and could end the year leading the ranking of infections and deaths.

The total and absolute denial of science by a sector of society and the government of President Jair Bolsonaro defines Brazil in the face of the global crisis. The government's messages generate confusion and chaos, and a large part of the Brazilian population still does not accept the gravity of the crisis; many people in the big cities to those who circulate through the streets, without masks or any other type of protection.

In some cities, people travel on public transport without masks, talking on the cell phone, as if the relaxation of the social isolation measures meant that the pandemic was overcome. Brazil lives a mixture of disinformation and denialism imposed by the highest authorities of the country.

This denial of science was installed with force in many social sectors. In the humblest, perhaps due to less access to quality information, difficulty in understanding, and the need to work so as not to starve. In the upper classes, contempt for science is more difficult to understand.

In this tremendously distressing context, where death stalks all the time, collectors of recyclable material (paper, aluminum, glass, and others) have enormous risks. Waste pickers work in extremely precarious conditions, subject to all kinds of contamination and diseases.

The term "waste picker" was adopted at the First World Conference of Waste Pickers in Bogota, Colombia, in 2008 to facilitate global networking--and to supplant derogatory terms like "scavenger." Preferred times vary, however, by place. For example catadores in Portuguese, recicladores in Spanish

Catadores (waste pickers) still live outside all social and labor rights, excluded from most of the wealth that the recycling market moves and produces. Children and adolescents, who should be in school, work to ensure their survival. Waste pickers also work on the streets of most Brazilian municipalities.

Since March 2020, COVOID-19 has transformed the lives of the hundreds of thousands of waste pickers who work on the streets of Brazil into a misfortune, because the virus lurks every time they handle garbage, but their poverty has forced them to take the risk. Some of them get masks and gloves through donations; others directly do not use anything because they do not have access to them or are not aware of the emergency. Several workers have already been contaminated and are ill, some have died, and many are at risk.

The cooperatives of waste pickers and collectors of recyclable materials are affected by the drop in prices of recyclable materials and by contracts with city halls that do not even guarantee a minimum income for the cooperative workers. With the reduction of consumption by society in general due to social isolation, there is a sharp drop in the volume of materials collected for recycling, further compromising family income. Most of them have no income; to mitigate the effects of the crisis, the government approved a subsidy $ 110 for three months (April-June) for informal workers and the poorest families.

The Lutheran Diakonia Foundation, with the support of the ELCA / Global Mission, is supporting 183 families of waste pickers and recyclable material collectors, populations that are deeply impacted by the social and economic effects caused by the pandemic of COVID-19, in the state of Rio Grande do Sul.

Cooperatives will preferably produce the basic baskets (with food supplies and hygienic components). Other organizations of waste pickers and recyclable material collectors. They will organize the logistics of delivery and distribution of basic baskets

In addition to the people directly benefited by the basic basket's distribution, the FLD

project also includes people from associations and cooperatives of family farming and solidarity economic enterprises that will produce the baskets. In total. In total, 82 people will be involved in the production of the baskets, and 328 people who are part of their families will benefit indirectly.

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